Carolina Gallo went from Tennis to playing padel and took the sport of padel from Spain to Dubai.
Today, her consultancy, Padel World UAE, is one of the pre-eminent padel focused organisations in the region. Hear her story, and the journey of padel which now boasts over 150 courts in the UAE, within the GCC region.
Zushan Hashmi: From Spain to Dubai, how did you get into the game of Padel?
Carolina Gallo: I have a tennis background and used to compete in tennis but due to an injury, I started to play padel. It was less aggressive on my knee and then I was addicted to it.
I started to work in a club in Marbella (my home city) and got an offer to come to Dubai to open the first public padel club in UAE. In 2011, my Dubai journey started.
How much has padel changed in terms of global reach, and professional sport, since your professional days?
Padel has been the fastest growing sport in the world since it first took off.
In the past 10 years, the sport has grown from 6 public courts to more than 150 in the UAE. Worldwide, the sport has gained a lot of popularity and now with associations like FIP (International Padel Federation), WPT (World Padel Tour) and a few more, the sport has gained popularity and engages thousands of players around the globe.
The tournaments are broadcasted (through Youtube streaming), sponsors are on board and celebrities are helping the sport to reach more countries and get more players hooked.
What was the purpose behind opening a club in the UAE?
I was offered to open the padel market in the UAE by opening (creating, building and managing) the first public padel club in Dubai (Real Racquet Academy at Emirates Golf Club).
How many courts are there in the UAE today?
In 2014 there were only 15 padel courts for public use. Today, we have more than 150 courts!
What have been the challenges/successes both at a personal but also a professional level of growing the game there?
Being a woman in the sports sector in this country was a thing, but with time, I managed to make myself a respected individual in the Padel sector in the UAE.
All the challenges I faced during my padel journey have given me knowledge and strength to be an expert consultant in the sector.
I have the confidence of renowned UAE families that have entrusted me their investments for padel businesses and I believe that in this country, that’s a big goal already. Nowadays, I still work hard to improve myself and keep up to date with the latest innovations on the market.
The UAE is a nation with so many expatriates from all over the world, what is the participation like amongst Emiratis?
At the beginning, our main client was the expat resident, but today, the game has gained a lot of passionates through the Emirati community.
Today Emiratis own clubs and courts and its very difficult to go to a club and not see a UAE national playing.
This popularity of the sport within the local community is thanks to his Highness Sheikh Hamdan (The Crown Prince of Dubai).
He is a big fan of the sport and has shared his love for the sport through his social media accounts along with having the best padel facility in the world.
How do you deal with the high temperatures and a society that has only recently started focusing on health and fitness, when growing the sport and managing Padel World?
Right now, we have plenty of indoor clubs with Air conditioning. The outdoor courts are mostly for the winter season only and for the few brave souls that can keep up with the hit [laughs].
Padel World is a consultancy company that help investors to create the ideal padel concept, club, academy and more.
Being a coach and a business owner is no easy role, not to mention living away from “home”, can you tell me about how you manage your time, while also getting a game in at the court?
Since I opened Padel World my life has changed a lot. I have better time management e since the office can go with me to wherever I go.
Dubai is an easy place to love and I feel like I’m at home at all the times so, missing Spain is a thing, but, I get to go back home 2 or 3 times a year.
Do you think there are enough women playing the game in the region? Particularly GCC nationals? Why/why not?
Nowadays there are a lot compared to when I started but still, I think there should be more ladies encouraging themselves and getting a racket.
What do you think of padel in the UAE and the wider GCC region in the coming years?
I think it could be one of the most important sports in the region.
Even comparing it with football. Countries like Bahrain, KSA, Qatar and more are starting to build padel courts as well so, its a matter of time that it becomes as popular there as it is in the UAE.